Yesterday as I was making my way back to Tiquipaya from Cochabamba in a public bus an elderly man sparked up a conversation with me. Being a 6’3 large framed person I have trouble “fitting in” in most parts of the world. The shear fact that I was somehow able to literally fit into this tiny bus was nothing short of magic in the eyes of my new travel companion. After confirming that I had at least a survival level of Spanish, the elderly gentleman Martin, began to tell me about all the “Giants of North America” that he has met over the years. Since the journey from Cochabamba to Tiquipaya is about 40 minutes in length, this gave Martin and I plenty of time to chat so eventually the conversation transitioned to what was I doing here in Bolivia.
Describing the work of a Dragons instructor isn’t easy to do in English, let alone Spanish. “Sooo you’re a guide?” “You get paid to just travel? “You’re part of a service organization?” (because there’s no way you could go to the “developing world” just to learn…) How much longer do you think you’ll be doing this before you settle down and get a real job? Some people kind of check out when I start to describe my work. Others, like my new found friend Martin, dive in deeper to get a clearer understanding.
After giving an informal “presentation” (Didn’t have my official powerpoint presentation ready for this bus ride…) about what Dragons is we began to talk about the part of the course we are in right now, x-phase.
X-phase or more formally titled Expedition Phase is my favorite part of any Dragons course. In my personal definition of x-phase, this part of the course is designed to reflect adulthood. X-phase is the time in our students’ “lives” when they have the most freedom they’ve had all course. They can decide where they want to go and how they want to spend their time. The world (or in this case just Bolivia and Peru) is there waiting to be explored. Sounds pretty fun right? However, like adulthood this time also brings a lot of responsibility. You’re not traveling on your own. You have to work alongside 11 other students. Clear, regular, compassionate communication with your peers will be required. You have to give each other constructive feedback and help each other grow as travelers and human beings. You can spend x-phase sitting around watching movies and wasting your time. Or you can truly own your own education, challenge yourself and throw yourself headfirst into this experience. As an adult there are some things you just have to do. You have to be able to provide for yourself and you have to follow the laws of your country. After that you have to make a choice of how you’ll use your time. You can use your freedom/”x-phase” to check out, watch a movie. You can use your “x-phase” to fall back on your privilege, enjoy the comforts of life that our demographic has been born into. Or you can push through your comfort zone, push through the fact that you’re tired and fully invest yourself in your own growth and development.
Ana, Doug and I are excited to see what these amazing 12 young adults bring to the table. Group B, know that we’re so proud of all you’ve done so far. You’ve pushed yourselves physically and mentally in ways you probably didn’t know you could. We want to honor your dedication and hard work thus far but know that you’re not out of the thick of it yet, ideally you never will be. Ideally x-phase will last your whole life. We hope you’ll constantly being pushing yourself. Not necessarily pushing yourselves to make more money, have more things or other traditional definitions of success. Instead pushing yourselves to be the best women and men you can be. To constantly be challenging/questioning yourself/the world around you and to be truly owning your education. It’s a big request and we know that at times during this phase of the course you may be frustrated with us but know we’re pushing you because we believe in you. You all mentioned that you’re here to grow and get a better understanding of who you are. This is your time to do it. Stick your neck out, show me that courage you’ve shown me so many times already on this course but amplify it even more. You’ll make mistakes, that’s life. We’ll be there to help you process it. You got this [email protected]!
*The students are organizing our time here in Tiquipaya until the 17th (the included photo is from a Salteña cooking class they organized). From there we’ll head to Potosi where all activities/logistics/meals/etc will be coordinated by the students. On the 21st we’ll embark on a 10 day completely student led adventure. Students are still narrowing down the options they have researched for these 10 days. They will be posting a yak shortly with their final x-phase itinerary.